The founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has said that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the 100% Presidential Compliance Team set up by the association is not meant to witch hunt anybody but for the good of all the port users.
Aniebonam who made this clarification in a chat with newsmen in office at the Apapa area of Lagos on Tuesday while appealing for the understanding of the stakeholders in this regard, said that he had noted some level of discomfort on the part of some section of stakeholders who probably did not understand what compliance of team of NAGAFF was all about.
He further opined that compliance team was still a tool for trade facilitation created to enable freight forwarders, importers and exporters as well as the port operators to comply with regulations, standard operating procedures, what they ought to do in the port operation and nothing more than that.
“Overtime, we have all seen that people are not compliant to import regulations. What an importer should do and what a freight forwarder should do, what the Nigerian Ports Authority should do, NIMASA should do, Shippers’ Council should do, the exporter should do, the regulatory agencies of the government, SON, NAFDAC, the customs, name them. All agencies of government and stakeholders that have anything to do with the ports, they have standard operating procedures that are set out approved by each organization and of course, the position of freight forwarder is quite clear, they are catalysts, they are the coordinating agents, they factor all processes and procedures that made it possible for goods and services to move from the point of origin, across the international boundaries to the final destination i.e. the owners’ warehouse.
“What we are trying to do is to add value to the ongoing reforms of the government. One thing we all need to know is that issues in Nigeria that has to do with the implementation of government policies, we have all seen that, yes, one thing is to make a law, another thing is to obey the law and more likely is to enforce it. And so, it is just to add value to port reforms, which is what compliance is all about. In other words, we are going to do self-cleansing by way of education and enlightenment.
“So, those who thought that there is any ulterior motive to compliance team, they better understand that it is for the good of everybody, that of the government and those who come to do business at the customs ports and in doing so, we would have inculcated in us a peaceful environment other than what we get today. So, the summary is that what we are saying now is that the situation on ground, compliance in perspective is a tool for trade facilitation. If you understand it that way, you don’t really have any problem but if you have ulterior motive as to thinking about issue of compliance, then you have a skeleton in your cupboard, therefore, those who have skeleton in their cupboard should not ask for equity. This is something you are not doing favour to anybody but to this great country called Nigeria and all of us will need to join hands to make things work”, he explained.
Aniebonam who is also the National Chairman of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) maintained that picketing was not part of the work schedule for the members of the Compliance Team adding that their job was to raise the issue and report to the appropriate authority.
In his words, “The compliance team has observatory status, you know why? One, we have two criteria to be in the port, membership of CRFFN takes you straight to the port. If your name is found in the register of freight forwarders, you are an accredited freight forwarder so you have access straight into the port. Second, if you are licensed by the customs under Section 153 to 156, you are a corporate entity licensed by the customs, you as a representative of that licensed issued by the customs have access to the customs port.
“So, access into the port is guaranteed on observatory status, that is where we can, when we observe what is not proper, such observation will be reported to the appropriate authority and I can assure you that those who are in breach of the laws of this land as far as port operation is concerned, such issues are likely to come up as may be observed by the compliance team. If it is customs, we take it direct to the Comptroller General of Customs. If it is the Police, we take it straight to the AIG Maritime, then report, it is left for him, we have done what we are supposed to do. If it is Standards organization Nigeria officials, we take it straight to the DG of SON, so also NAFDAC and any other government organization that is duly represented in the port.
“If your officers are doing things to the contrary, our duty is to see it and say something about it to the appropriate authority. Let me tell you one thing, those I have mentioned, from the Comptroller General of Customs to the Inspector General of Police as the case maybe, never asked anybody to go into the port and extort money from anybody or do anything in breach of the law. So, also our members, if you are found doing something to the contrary, such matter will be taken up to your own organization which has the mandate. If it is a criminal matter, the case will be referred to the appropriate quarter i.e. the Police. If it is customs matter, it will be referred to customs but if it is something we can go by way of mere settlement through arbitration, that we can handle but if it is in criminal context, we don’t have power to do so, we hand you over to the appropriate authority.”
Photo: The founder of NAGAFF and National Chairman of NNPP, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam.
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